It was Mark who set up the interview with Pinxton's manager Kenny Shinfield (In the Ken), a former school-mate.
Having driven through an absolute monsoon on the way North, I was concerned that I would arrive to find the game postponed. However, after passing Nottingham the skies started to brighten a little and, by the time I turned off the M1, the sun was breaking through. Game on.
The approach to the Welfare Arena is via a service road off the main village thoroughfare. There is a social club on the site, Pinxton Miner's Welfare Social Club, which gives the ground it's name. There is a fair amount of parking around the social club and on the approach road. The ground is perched above the social club looking out over the Derbyshire countryside. It's a short walk up alongside the ground to the single gated entrance which is situated pretty much on the halfway line.
The first thing that strikes you when you get into the ground is that it does not have the appearance of a Step 7 stadium. In fact, at first glance the facilities are on a par with the majority of Step 5 grounds I have been to.
To the right of the entrance, behind the far goal, is a grass bank and a snack bar/hospitality bar, raised above the ground and accessed by a few steps. There is also a sheltered standing area incorporated into the bank.
On the far side of the ground from the entrance are the dugouts and a small covered seating area. The ground is clearly well cared for, well appointed and a credit to the club. The pitch also looked in very good condition.
Prior to this game the sides had never met in the FA Vase, or any other FA competition as far as I could see.
Pinxtons best FA Vase run came in the 2015-16 season when they made it through to the Third Round before going down 4-3 at home to Nuneaton Griff. Birstall can boast a Fourth Round appearance in 1997-98 when Spalding United finally ended their run with a 2-1 victory in Lincolnshire.
A tight and competitive opening to the game with both sides giving as good as they got. As I commented to my colleague Mark, who had joined me to watch his first ever Pinxton game, with 20 minutes gone you couldn't tell that Pinxton played their football at a step below Birstall. It was very evenly matched.
The deadlock was broken after 31 minutes and it was the home side who grabbed the advantage. Some nifty footwork took Sion Nathan Green into the box allowing Robert Fretwell to slide the ball into the net to make it 1-0 to Pinxton.
However, Birstall were to get themselves back into the game before half-time. With a couple of minutes remaining they forced a corner on the left. The cross was not properly cleared and Lee Barratt reacted quickest to loop a header over both goalkeeper and a defender on the line. 1-1.
HT Pinxton 1 Birstall United 1. Level at half-time and probably a fair reflection on the game.
The second-half was less that 5 minutes old when Birstall completed the turn around. An Ethan Bibby free-kick was well saved by Power in the Pinxton goal but Jake Robertson was on hand to lash the rebound back past the keeper and into the net for 1-2.
Two goals in, effectively, seven minutes. They say that there are good times to score goals - although I'm not sure that there is a bad time to score - and Birstall equalising just before the break and then going ahead so soon after half-time, certainly seemed to knock some of the stuffing out of Pinxton for a short while.
A few minutes past the hour mark and Birstall seemed to have hammered in the final nail. A swift break down the right led to a dangerous ball into the middle that appeared to take a final touch off a Pinxton defender before nestling into the back of the net. 1-3 and seemingly no way back for the home side.
Sadly for neutrals in the crowd, Pinxton could not find an equaliser. Another 30 minutes between two sides who wanted to play good football, would have been quite welcome.
FT Pinxton 2 Birstall United 3. A gallant effort from Pinxton who matched their higher ranked opponents for much of the game. However, credit also to Birstall who fought back from a goal down and then withstood a Pinxton fightback to hold on. A very entertaining game of football, well worth driving through the awful weather and very nice to meet up with Mark outside of work for once. Birstall now face another trip to Derbyshire in the Second Qualifying Round after Heanor Town defeated Holwell Sports. Pinxton will, no doubt, focus on bettering last season's third place league finish with an aim of promotion this term.
Pinxton: Power, Fones, Groves, Marriott(c), Holmes, Ellis, Green, Waldram, Smith, Fretwell, Minto. Subs: Coupe, Cooke, Hallas, Riley, Benger
Birstall United: Young, Cotter, Articolo, Snaith, Day(c), Gough, Bates, Barrett, Bibby, Robertson. Subs: Conteh, Nimblette, Rowley, Jordan, Potter
Ground Number: 208